Is 10,000 steps the magic number for weight loss?
Where did that 10,000 number come from anyway, and more importantly, how in the world can I fit 10,000 steps into MY day?
For most people, reaching 10,000 steps takes a focused effort. Believe me, on a “normal” day, I’m lucky if I reach somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 steps, so when I hit the 10,000 mark, it’s cause for a celebration!
Speaking of celebrating…
I hit 10,000 steps three times this week!
See? My Fitbit told me so…
The whole 10,000 steps thing can be traced back to just after the 1964 Olympics. Japanese researchers, led by Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, realized that the elite athletes were in great shape, but much of the general population lived a sedentary life.
His team’s research on health and fitness for “everyday people” led to the invention of a pedometer that people could use to track their steps and monitor activity levels.
It was called the “manpo-kei”, which in English, means “ten thousand steps meter”, and 10,000 was a nice round number that equated to approximately 5 miles of walking. Eventually, encouraging people to reach a goal of “10k-a-day” to increase their overall health became a motivational marketing phrase and an accepted fitness baseline.
Over the years, numerous large scale studies have confirmed the positive effects of an active lifestyle on our health – and it’s about more than just weight loss. The benefits of walking in particular include lowering the risk of heart disease, blood pressure, and diabetes, reducing stress, and can be a fun social activity. It’s an exercise that just about everyone can do, and best of all, it’s free!
Should 10,000 steps be my goal?
For many people, setting a goal of 10,000 steps right away is simply unrealistic, and it’s just not gonna happen. On the other hand, 10,000 steps might be not enough of a challenge for you because you are already so active. If that’s you, you’ll need to push harder to see the same effects (i.e. increase intensity, speed, add weight training, etc). I say treat the number 10,000 as a guideline, not the gospel, and of course you can always work your way up to new goals along the way as your fitness level improves.
When you first start wearing a tracker like the Fitbit, Jawbone, or Garmin Vivosmart, you might be in for a shocker. I know I was! I barely had any steps at all, and I thought it was broken! After my ego got out of the way, I realized I needed to make a conscious effort to get more active. I sit down FAR too much during my day (thanks, desk job!) and I have to schedule my active time in advance, either with my morning workouts or some kind of activity after work, or both.
Speaking of sitting…
Do you sit all day at a desk like I do? In doing research for this article I discovered how absolutely bad that is! A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology followed a group of over 120,000 men and women for 14 years and found a significant higher rate of mortality for those who spent large amounts of time sitting (between 3 and 6 hours per day) regardless of the amount of exercise they got.
Another study, found further evidence of the dangers of prolonged sitting, concluding that sitting leads to fewer muscle contractions, which leads to insulin resistance (i.e. our sugar and fat hangs around in our bodies longer), which leads to a slowed down metabolism, and a host of other health problems.
So if I’m busting my butt trying to reach my goal of 10,000 steps, is it all for nothing if I have a desk job? Absolutely not! Ready for some GOOD news? Recent research (here, and here) has found that we can use strategic breaks throughout our day to combat the sedentary sit fest some of us experience all day long. They found that “having a higher number of breaks in sedentary time was beneficially associated with waist circumference, body mass index, triglycerides, and a 2-h plasma glucose”. Yay for breaks!
So starting this week at work, let’s remember to set our alarms every hour or so, to remember to take mini-breaks to walk, or at least stand and stretch a bit, shall we? As long as we don’t head over to the snack table on our break, we should be fine! :)
Speaking of snacks…
You Can’t Outrun (or outwalk) a Bad Diet!
If you have been following an active lifestyle, but still struggle with weight loss, you might ask yourself about your diet. Are you trying to out-exercise the bad food that you put in your body? Do you drink a daily soda or eat processed or fast-food more than you know you probably should? Unfortunately, no matter how many steps you take, you will only win with your health and fitness when you combine exercise with healthy nutrition (both quality AND quantity – watch those portions!). Top that combo with some added support from friends or family, and you’ve now got a real recipe for success!
Here’s to 10,000 steps and beyond!
May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. ~ Psalm 20:4
If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. ~ Zig Ziglar